The champagne, Warren Barguil insisted, remains on ice at least until Marseille on Saturday night, but the Sunweb rider and his roommate Michael Matthews look set to have cause for celebration on the final weekend of the Tour de France.
Matthews had been inching ever closer to the green jersey in recent days, but he found himself ensconced in the tunic rather sooner than he might have expected when Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) crashed out of the Tour early on stage 17.
Barguil, meanwhile, has worn the polka dot jersey of king of the mountains since the beginning of the second week, and he all but sealed the classification by cresting the summit of the Col du Galibier in third place on Wednesday afternoon.
"I think Michael is close and I'm close too," Barguil grinned in the mixed zone in Serre Chevalier after the finish.
A few yards away, Matthews was trying on the green jersey for size for the first time. At the beginning of the race, the Australian was expected to be Peter Sagan's biggest challenger for the prize, but when the world champion was expelled following the finishing straight crash in Vittel on stage 4, Kittel emerged as the favourite for the title.
After claiming five stage wins in the opening two weeks, Kittel built up what seemed to be an insurmountable lead in the standings, but Matthews' fightback began with stage victory in Rodez at the weekend and continued with another quality triumph in Romans-sur-Isère on Tuesday.
The more rugged terrain of the final week was slowly beginning to tilt the balance in Matthews' favour, as testified by the 20 points he picked up by winning the early intermediate sprint on stage 17. Kittel's crash after 19 kilometres of the stage and his subsequent abandon on the Col de la Croix de Fer, however, would rob the competition of its anticipated denouement on the Champs-Élysées, and Matthews was muted in his celebrations on Wednesday afternoon.
"After getting 50 points yesterday I knew that it was game on. I knew beforehand that I had to be active to get those 20 points today and was aware that even if I did get those points it was still going to be difficult," Matthews said. "You never want to see a guy out of a race like this, it's been such a good battle up to this point and I hope Kittel is ok."
In winning the intermediate sprint, Matthews had moved to within nine points of Kittel's lead, but the German's abandon meant that he finished the day on the podium in green, and with an essentially unassailable lead of 160 points over André Greipel (Lotto Soudal).
"I knew Marcel came down in a crash but I didn't know how bad it was," said Matthews, who had been on the offensive from the opening kilometres in his bid to cut the German's lead.
Despite Kittel's misfortune, Matthews is no accidental maillot vert. The Australian is the perfect prototype for a winner of the points classification, given his adroitness across a range of terrains. Indeed, he even led stage 17 over the Col d'Ornon, as he rode to defend Barguil's lead in the mountains classification.
Barguil had come down in the same crash as Kittel, but emerged unscathed and quickly rejoined the yellow jersey group. After the early break swept up the points on the Croix de Fer and Télégraphe, the Breton was aggressive on the Galibier and crested the summit in third place. He leads Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) by 49 points, with just one mountain stage to come.
"Roglic needs to be in the break and win the stage, so it will be hard for him," said Barguil. "But I need to be careful."
Already a stage winner in Foix, Barguil also moved into the top ten on the general classification thanks to his fifth place finish on stage 17. After breaking his pelvis at the Tour de Romandie in April, Barguil was fortunate to start the Tour, and left Dusseldorf insistent that he had no general classification aspirations.
"I was a little bit shocked when I heard I was in the top 10 after the stage. Whatever happens from now, it's been a very good Tour for me," Barguil said. "Being in the top 10 means a lot, especially because I lost time without thinking about it in the first week. But having the jersey and a stage win are more important to me."
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